How to Choose a Shipping Carrier for Your Online Store

Choosing a shipping carrier for your ecommerce site is an important choice, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. When browsing your options, ask yourself these 7 questions to stay on the right track.

There are several things to consider when building your ecommerce site, ranging from product offerings to web design. Most of these decisions are fun and interesting, yet there are some logistical details that, let’s face it, aren’t very exciting. Choosing a shipping carrier may fall into this category for you, but avoid the temptation to skimp on the details when weighing your options – it can cost you a lot of money as your business grows.

For most online retailers, you have four main providers: DHL, FedEX, UPS and USPS. Ideally, you’ll want a fast, reliable and affordable carrier that helps you streamline shipping activities. But to better guide your journey in picking the right shipping carrier, ask these seven important questions:

1. What kind of products am I shipping?

Consider any special requirements of your products. Some carriers can’t deliver items of certain sizes or shapes, while others charge different rates for such items. For example, if you ship mostly small products, consider using the US Postal Service’s (USPS) flat-rate shipping packaging. On the other hand, if your products are large, compare potential freight shipping charges.

2. Which providers are most reputable?

Most of your customers will prefer to receiver their order from a shipping provider they’ve heard of, such as FedEx, UPS or USPS. Customers enter their credit card information with greater confidence when they trust the carrier.

3. How will I get the packages to my carrier?

When comparing carriers, consider whether the carrier picks up the packages (and any related fees) for you, or if you need to transport the packages to the carrier’s drop-off location yourself. If you need to drop off packages, find out where the nearest drop-off location is, along with their hours of operation.

4. Will I be shipping internationally?

While you may not think about shipping globally at first, it’s an important option to consider. Be sure to compare rates and provisions for international orders up front, and check out carriers that are specific to certain markets and countries, such as Canada Post and Australia Post.

5. Should I offer more than one shipping carrier?

Many online businesses allow their customers to select from multiple shipping providers, such as UPS and FedEx. The decision to offer this option to your customers is totally yours, so factor in how much, if any, additional cost and human resources are required to do so.

6. Does my ecommerce platform support live rates for my carrier of choice?

Live rates are calculated based on product weight, destination, and what the carrier’s charging at the time of the order. Find out which carriers offer live rates and ask your ecommerce provider whether their platform supports live rates, and for which carriers.

7. What about price?

To compare prices, first look at the weights and sizes of your products and refer to the carriers’ websites to determine your average shipping cost for the destinations you’re selling to. While small price differences may seem irrelevant, they can quickly add up.


Choose your shipping carrier wisely. You’re essentially picking a business partner here, and your shipping provider plays an important role in customer satisfaction. Even if a late delivery isn’t your fault, your customers associate the bad experience with your brand.

Best of luck in your shipping search, and try your best to make it a fun one!
Happy selling!
-Matt Winn, Social Media Manager, Volusion


Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

3 Responses to “How to Choose a Shipping Carrier for Your Online Store”

  1. Jameaquez M. Latimer

    Wow, it seems like that something that you don’t want to keep going thru! Glad you got that solved.

  2. Watch Out

    I just found out something about FedEx business practices that you’ll want to know if you have an account and drop your packages off at a counter like FedEx Kinkos. Weekly pickup fees were getting a little expensive for me, so I decided to take my packages to a nearby drop off counter location. I had an inkling the other day to check my detailed invoice instead of just paying the bill and discovered that I was being charged $3 for driver pickup on lots of the packages I was dropping off. Why? Because if the counter staff doesn’t scan in the packages at some point before the driver shows up at 5 pm and the driver is the first to scan it, the customer is charged a $3 pickup fee. So, even though you are dropping off at a counter, which is supposed to be free, if the driver who comes at the end of the day is the first person to scan the package, you’re hit with a $3 driver pick up for every package he or she scans. Before doing this regularly, I occasionally dropped off packages this way, so who knows over the last few years how many times I was charged this fee without even knowing it. FedEx had no problem reversing the fees on the last few invoices, but certainly requiring a business customer to call every week when a new invoice comes out to dispute charges that are invalid is not a proper way to treat customers. It is also not proper to charge customers fees for driver pickups whether are dropping off at a counter. The billing rep told me that’s just how it’s done. FedEx Kinkos said there’s nothing they can do except remind employees to scan all packages. FedEx via their website told me to talk to billing. I have contacted the BBB and my state’s AG to hopefully get this practice of invalid billing for services not provided stopped.

    • Matt

      Yikes! That’s quite a find. Sorry to hear that happened, but glad to hear you caught it. Thanks for sharing this with our community and saving them extra bucks! -Matt


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